Local archival initiatives discussed on the second part of Digital Archiving webinar

Melanie Jimenez, Toni Rose Baldovino, News, Communication Management Office


The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) organized a webinar on digital archiving last March 17, through a collaborative project Philippine Documentary Heritage (PHDH).

Titled “Digital archiving during the time of COVID-19”, the second webinar invited presenters from Ugnayang Pang-Aghamtao (UGAT), Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), Filipinas Heritage Library (FHL), and the National Archives of the Philippines (NAP) to talk about their different archival projects this pandemic.

“We believe it is important to take stock of what we have learned and what we have produced as individuals and as a collective to respond, record, and contribute to the documentary heritage on the pandemic,” said PHDH on its official Facebook page. 

In the webinar, local archiving institutions presented the ways they collect and document the struggles and stories of the Filipinos during the pandemic. Although each project has distinct objectives, the main goal is to open a platform for people to share their experiences and ultimately, widen the understanding of the public on the role of archiving in the present and future research.  

Tell the Tale: Digital and local COVID -19 archiving initiatives in the Philippines 

UGAT, the only association of anthropologists in the Philippines, introduced Talaarawan COVID-19 Diary, a project which aims to explore how might an anthropological perspective can contribute to the narratives of the pandemic. The project “solicits musings, reflection essays, poetry, artwork, and audiovisual works on the COVID-19 pandemic experiences based on the different senses—sight, smell, touch, hearing, feeling”. According to UGAT, they have collected entries mostly from the middle-class workers, teachers, frontliners, and students, and still welcomes submissions in any language. 

“We wanted to capture the experiences, the thoughts, the feelings, the senses of people in this very significant period of history. So, in doing that, hopefully, will make us get a better sense of ourselves by learning from the experiences of others,” Labastilla explained why they created a public diary.

UGAT released a call for submission on April 8, 2020, which included entries in the form of journal entries, essays, photos, photo essays, audio recordings, videos, drawings, illustrations, URL links, and screenshots.

CCP, on the other hand, discussed the CCP Digital Time Capsule and presented the Art in the Time of COVID-19 as “a sub-timeline that chronicles the artistic and creative responses of the Philippine artistic and cultural community to the current pandemic crisis”. 

“We want to give a voice to the Arts and Culture sector because it is one of the most hard-hit by the pandemic, economically. Besides recording the crucial point of history, we want to give a message that during the pandemic, it is art and creativity people turn into for self-expression and respite," said Jhoanne Kristine A. Vinuya, content manager of the CCP Time Capsule. 

Meanwhile, Marianne Bugnosen, Senior Associate and Digital Archivist of FHL, Maria Sofia Amparo Santiago, FHL Associate Manager and Curator for Partnerships, Programs, and Exhibitions elaborated about the Philippine COVID Archive and the Journal of the Plague Year, an archival initiative spearheaded by the Arizona State University.

In the Philippine COVID Archive, FHL is collecting snapshots of the people’s quarantined lives, the way we cope, live, fight, protect, and help ourselves especially in the communities and others in facing the crisis, said also by Santiago. 


Project Head of PH Documentary Heritage, Rosemarie Roque also talked regarding the archival partnership of NCCA-NCA and PUP, which was also created in part to heed the call of UNESCO for greater support of documentary heritage during times of upheaval such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Roque, they have collated and deposited 1,849 COVID-19 related artworks in their database for their initial research today. Also, there were 736 items about manifestations of experiences or stories and accounts related to creative work and field during the pandemic.

Roque said that the NCCA-PUP digital archive will make accessible creative works, accounts, and manifestations of experiences of the arts and culture sector of the Philippines. The records and materials contained in the archives will serve as references for research, programming, and policy-making. The repository will include materials from the time the Enhanced Community Quarantine was announced in Luzon on March 15, 2020 onwards and will benefit not only the PUP community but all artists, creatives, cultural workers, scientists, policymakers, and the general public

Furthermore, Maureen Janet Mercado, Senior Records Analyst of NAP’s Philippine Pandemic Response Archives, introduced the overview of their archival project, which focuses specifically on documenting government agencies’ response. 

NAP said that their archive will give priority to issuances, memorandum, policies and guidelines, city ordinances, official social media postings, press releases related to COVID-19.

Strengthening the Philippine archiving community

To strengthen and build up the Philippine archiving community, PHDH and the archiving institutions that presented in the webinar called for the active participation of every Filipino by contributing to their archiving projects. 

“We really need to learn from each other’s experiences, malaking bagay na malaman mo na ang iyong experience ay similar to others and that gives real learning and yan ang magsasalba satin sa pandemyang ito,” said PHDH Project head, Rose Rosemarie O. Roque. 

“The effort to bring the five projects is an effort to volt in. Hopefully 'yung hindi namin kasama sa webinar magreach out tayo sa isa’t-isa, maliit ang archiving community pero palawakin pa natin,” added Roque as she solicited solidarity among all archiving groups to act as one to establish and contribute to Philippine documentary heritage. 

Dr. Nicolas Mallari, the director of PUP-Institute for Human and Social Development reiterated this goal in his closing remarks, “the NCCA and PUP have a common goal of making the objectives of this endeavor realizable— to accomplish the ultimate objective of archiving all available information regarding experiences of people from different sectors on the issue and problems caused by the pandemic.”

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